Dr. Darius Stoddard and honoring our veterans

A lot of time has passed since my last post! I have moved north to Massachusetts…not far from Connecticut, but a move is a move! I have a quick post regarding a project I am currently working on, which will likely take several years. I have set out to document the final resting places of the Revolutionary War officers from Connecticut who served in the Continental Army or Navy for three years or more, or who died in service to their country. I believe the number of men in this group is nearly 500, so I have my work ahead of me. I am doing this to ensure all these men (or, as many as I can discover) continue to have their grave sites well maintained and decorated, in memory of the sacrifice they made to ensure the establishment of the United States. As I have begun, I have noticed a cousin of mine (many times removed) did not have a marker noting his service. I am glad to say that thanks to the Flag Man, I have corrected this! Picture below:


Mary Ann Goodwin, wife of John W. Stoddard

Not too long ago I wrote a short story of John Washburn Stoddard, my 3rd Great-Grandfather. Much of that story remains the same, clouded with a bit of mystery and several family burial plots sitting unmarked. Until I uncover the mystery behind that story and hopefully someday raise the money to respectfully mark their graves, I can provide short updates on this small part of my family tree.

Mary Ann Goodwin was probably born in Oxford, CT, (as was her mother, Sabra Goodwin), on 14 February 1830/31. Mary Ann’s birth year is a bit confusing because she marked both 1830 and 1831 at different times; the best I can tell is that 1831 is correct, but perhaps she fudged the numbers so when she was married in 1848 it appeared she was 18. Without knowing too much about her, she appears to have been a loving mother and a positive influence on her family. She gave birth to 5 children, only one dying prior to adulthood (John L. Stoddard, died at age 3 years, 9 months – see earlier article on John W. Stoddard). After marrying John in Burlington, CT, in 1848, they lived most of their lives in Farmington. They moved in 1885 due to unknown reasons, although being farmers, perhaps life on the farm became difficult and John needed to seek employment in a different manner; the family moved to Meriden and Mary Ann appears to have been very supportive. After her husband’s death in December 1889, and with her children living in the general area (Waterbury, New Britain, and Meriden), she began living with her children…different children at different times. Her two daughters were not married (one never married, the other a widow) and they provided care and shelter, along with her son Nathan. The end of Mary Ann’s life is difficult to state for certain because she appears mainly in city directories and census reports as a resident, so only her address is known. Her final permanent residence was New Britain, CT, so I visited the town clerk there. Interestingly, they did have a record of her death, but merely a note that advised those concerned to visit Middletown, CT. A very mysterious treasure hunt to be sure…off to Middletown. The town clerk (actually, the Health Dept. in Middletown) had Mary Ann’s death certificate…she spent her final few days and died at the Connecticut Hospital for the Insane, which is why the record of her death was in Middletown, CT.

I was sad to think of Mary Ann’s last days being spent in a hospital for the insane, but at the beginning of the 20th century there were very limited places for adequate care…and mental illness, more than 100 years after Mary Ann’s death, still caries significant stigmas and shame from our society. I read a number of interesting articles online regarding early 20th century care for the mentally disabled (in Mary Ann’s case, likely some form of dementia) and was able to contact the hospital, requesting Mary Ann’s medical record. To my great surprise, after filling out the appropriate paperwork, I received a copy of her record that had been preserved on micro-film. Poor Mary Ann had become overwhelmed with feelings of insecurity and was filled with fear that people were trying to take away the last few things that she held dear. She died after a short stay in the hospital on 3 April 1903, at the age of 73, a little more than a dozen years after the death of her beloved husband. She was buried in an unmarked grave at Riverside Cemetery in Farmington, CT, next to her husband.

The rest of Mary Ann’s family remains a mystery. Her mother’s name was Sabra Goodwin…maiden name unknown. According to Mary Ann’s marriage record, her father’s name was Joseph Goodwin. After several hours of research, it does not appear that there is a Joseph Goodwin who married a woman named Sabra (from Oxford, CT) during the early 19th century, at least not from the well-known Goodwin family of CT, descendants of William and Ozias. There is some evidence that Joseph Goodwin was an immigrant from Canada or perhaps directly from England, but this information is circumstantial at best. If there is a solid connection to be made someday, I will certainly provide an update. For now, this is the story of Mary Ann (Goodwin) Stoddard, quietly resting along a beautiful river in Farmington, CT.

Dr. Darius Stoddard, Revolutionary War Veteran

DStoddardSig2A short biography of Dr. Darius Stoddard is detailed below. Dr. Stoddard is my second cousin, 7x removed. I recently joined the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Connecticut as a collateral representative of Dr. Stoddard’s and his service of 5 years as a Surgeon’s Mate and Surgeon in the Continental Army is something I am very proud to honor and remember by telling his story. His resting place is located in the Town Hill Cemetery, Lakeville, CT, in the middle of the beautiful campus of the Hotchkiss School.

DStoddardGraveMkrDarius Stoddard was the fifth of nine children born to Josiah and Sarah (Robbarts) Stoddard, and the fourth of five boys. He was born on 17 May 1754, in Salisbury (LitchfieldCounty) CT. Four of the Stoddard boys served with distinction during the War; elder brothers Luther (2nd LT, Hinman’s 4th CT; Capt., Burrall’s CT Reg.) and Josiah (Capt., 2nd Continental Light Dragoons, died during the War), and younger brother Samuel (Sergt., Warner’s Regt. and 2nd CT Line). His father died in 1764, leaving the 10 year old Darius’ guardianship to the executor of his father’s will. However, upon reaching legal age Darius was able to select his own guardian and chose Nathaniel Buell (Buell would also serve as an officer in the Revolution). The first record of Dr. Stoddard’s service began 1 Jan 1777, as Surgeon’s Mate and Surgeon in the Hospital Department of the Continental Army, at the age of 22. He continued service to the Continental Army, Hospital Dept. for a period of 5 years, serving for some of that time as Surgeon, Col. Henry Jackson’s Regiment. Darius and his two older brothers were widely known and respected for their bravery and patriotic service throughout the war, but the trio was also well known for their quick tempers and unseemly behavior. Although often finding themselves in trouble, Darius generally put his abundant energy to good use throughout his war time service as a Surgeon’s Mate and Surgeon, serving in the Hospital Department throughout much of the war. However, frequent disagreements with fellow patriots were not uncommon and perhaps the most famous incident in his military service occurred in the fall of 1780, when he raised serious charges against his late-brother’s commander, Col. Elisha Sheldon, 2nd Light Dragoons. The conclusion of Sheldon’s general court-martial ended with the Colonel acquitted of all charges, “with honor and approbation” and Stoddard fined for the expenses of the trial for bringing charges deemed without merit. Stoddard married Mary Holley, daughter of John and Sarah (Lord) Holley. Marriage date unknown, and several years after Darius Stoddard’s death, Mary is believed to have wed Elias Hall, of Castleton VT, an officer of the Revolutionary War. After the war, Dr. Stoddard continued to practice medicine in his hometown of Salisbury and in eastern New York until the time of his death. Stoddard and his brother, Luther, joined the Montgomery Lodge of Masons in 1783, the year of the lodge’s founding. The lodge is still active to this day, known as Montgomery Lodge No. 13. As the war ended, he petitioned Congress and the Connecticut State Assembly, finally receiving his back pay earned during the War. However, he became consumed with land speculation deals in Virginia and found himself accumulating great debts, which landed him in jail from time to time. After a brief stay in jail in 1790, he became ill and soon thereafter died of consumption on 12 July 1790. He is buried next to his father in Town Hill Cemetery, Lakeville, CT. His headstone is inscribed with the following words: “In Memory of Doctor Darius Stoddard, who Died July 12th 1790 in the 37th year of his age. Nor shill, nor art the shafts of death can shun, But all alike his Icy arms must try; How short our time, how soon our race is run, Then let’s with care to Christ for shelter fly.”

Sources: CT Adjutants General, Records of Service of Connecticut Men in the War of the Revolution (Hartford CT, 1889) pp. 61, 93, 110, 257, 272, 327, 629; Secretary of the Commonwealth, Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War, Vol. 15 (Boston, MA, 1907), p. 62.; Francis Heitman, Historical Register, Officers of the Continental Army (Washington DC. Rare Book Co.  1914) p. 522; Dr. Darius Stoddard, Letter to the CT General Assembly, dated 15 October 1782 (Connecticut State Archives: Revolutionary War, 1763-1789), series 1, roll 23, p. 263; Malcolm Day Rudd, Men of Worth of Salisbury Birth, The Salisbury Quadrimillenium Edition, (The Salisbury Assoc., 1991), p. 157-161; Find-a-grave and gravestone photo, Town Hill Cemetery, Lakeville, CT; Montgomery Lodge No. 13, Lakeville, CT.

Captain Cooper Howell’s Prayer Book

Capt. Cooper Howell and his mother, Annie Fitler Howell.

Capt. Cooper Howell and his mother, Annie Fitler Howell.

I recently was privileged to be part of a wonderful story involving a man I am not related to, but a story that highlights one of the aspects of family genealogy that I love most…helping others to connect the dots in their family history. The bonus in this story is that the “connected dots” included a cherished family item – the Prayer Book of Captain Cooper Howell. So, here’s my story:

I recently became the Chaplain for the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Connecticut and thought it would be nice to obtain a Prayer Book to help me with these new duties. I currently owned a copy of Song and Service Book for Ship and Field: Army and Navy (1942), but thought an additional military prayer book might give me some additional prayers to consider. I searched online at Amazon and quickly found several options, of which I selected a World War I prayer book, A Prayer Book for Soldiers and Sailors (1917). A few weeks after ordering from a small book shop selling through Amazon, I received a nice note informing me that my order was canceled because they could not find the book in their inventory, in fact, no one could remember seeing it for the last 6 years! Not to be deterred, I picked a second book seller and happily received the book a few weeks later. Upon opening the book I discovered the “personal information” section partially filled in – the name of “next of kin” and “local minister,” but no name of the prayer book owner. The minister’s name was clearly written, The. Rev. Floyd Tomkins, and the relative’s name was Mrs. Charles ???. I was disappointed to discover great difficulty in reading the last name and the omission of the owner’s name. Ah well, I continued to explore the book…and my exploration provided one more happy surprise – a picture in the back cover pocket (the picture shown with this story)! The back of the photo noted: Capt. Cooper ??? and his mother, Mrs. Charles ??? OK, now I really needed to solve the mystery of the last name. I studied the name closely and determined I could make out the second or third letter to be “o” and the last three letters to be “ell.” Armed with this information I headed to the Ancestry website to do some research. After some searching, making use of “*” for wildcard unknown letters, I was able to determine that the mystery man was Captain Cooper Howell from Philadelphia. And the bonus to my research, I also found someone using Ancestry to research their Howell family’s roots…a connection in the making.

I contacted the gentleman on Ancestry and we exchanged a few email notes to confirm family connections and share information. Some additional interesting information is that The Rev. Tomkins (a priest at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Philadelphia) had previously served at Christ Church, Hartford, CT…interesting because I am an Episcopal priest serving at a church in CT, just a few miles from Christ Church! I learned quite a bit about Captain Cooper Howell, and his mother, Annie Fitler Howell, and their home in PA. I am very grateful to have learned about Captain Howell and his service to his country. I read through the prayer book a bit, made some copies of prayers that I particularly liked, and happily sent Captain Cooper Howell’s prayer book back to the Howell family. I know the book will be included among the many family treasures and enjoyed for future generations. A great end to an interesting story and I have had the honor of meeting a fellow family genealogist and contributing a tiny bit to their history.

John Washburn Stoddard (1826-1889)

John W. Stoddard (my 3rd G-Grandfather) has been an interesting man to investigate…and there is much more to know. John W. was born on 26 Feb 1826 in East Windsor, CT (John Stoddard of Wethersfield, by D. Williams Patterson, 1873) and the date of his death was not quite clear, although often listed as August 1889. Also interesting was his Civil War service in 2nd Light Artillery Regiment of CT…until I discovered a pension record after his death that listed his widow as Martha Matthews Stoddard. John Washburn Stoddard, my ancestor, was married to Mary Ann Goodwin in Burlington, CT, in 1848…so the Civil War soldier pension record pointed to a potential confusion. After digging into the Civil War records and following those leads, I discovered a John W. Stoddard (possibly John Wesley Stoddard) of New Haven, who did marry Martha Matthews, and they are buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, CT…not “my John W.” Back to the drawing board to untangle the tangled records.

What I do know of John Washburn Stoddard is that he married Mary Ann Goodwin in Burlington, CT (I have a certified copy of this). I also know that they lived in Farmington, CT, for several years and he worked as a farmer. I believe they had 5 children, Nathan William Stoddard being one of those children and my 2nd G-Grandfather. One of their children, John L. Stoddard, died very young (3 years, 9 months) in 1856. As I searched for additional details of John W. and Mary Ann Stoddard, the census reports and the city directories led me to Meriden, CT; where for some reason they moved after leaving their farm in Farmington in 1885. John worked at the Bradley & Hubbard Manufacturing Co., for just a few years until he died on 15 December 1889 (again, I am fortunate to have a copy of his record of death from Meriden). Understandable confusion since the John W. Stoddard of New Haven died in August 1889. But where did my “John W.” go? A thorough search of the cemeteries in Meriden revealed nothing; and then a review of the local papers revealed an obituary that noted “his remains were brought to Farmington” (Meriden Daily Republican, 16 Dec 1889). Back to Farmington!

RiversideCem-Stod2A thorough review of the headstones and cemetery information in Farmington, CT only revealed one family member: John L. Stoddard, died at age 3 years, 9 months. I went out to the Riverside Cemetery to find the young man’s grave, hoping to pay my respects and also to perhaps find some undocumented grave markers close by. I wandered through the cemetery, fascinated by the sheer number of Cowles family members in the Riverside Cemetery, until I finally found the grave marker for young John L. Stoddard. I was quite happy, both in finding his resting place and also for beating the rain that was looming in the dark clouds above my head. I continued to look in the general area for other family members, but found nothing. However, I did discover something quite interesting in the “nothing” that I did find. As the posted picture of the general area reveals, there seemed to be an amazing absence of grave markers around young John L. Stoddard…something didn’t seem quite right here.

RiversideCem-Stod1I returned home and looked up the phone number for the office of Riverside Cemetery. Briefly explaining my research to the kind woman on the phone, I told her I could only find one Stoddard family member in the Riverside Cemetery. She asked me to hold as she retrieved the map of the cemetery for a closer look. After a short review, I heard her say, “no, there are several Stoddard family members buried there, right next to John L. Stoddard.” And not one of them was marked! She proceeded to tell me of the burial spots for John Washburn Stoddard; his wife, “Mrs. John W. Stoddard”; Sabra Goodwin (Mary Ann’s mother); daughters Ella and Jane (known as Jenny); and Dwight James Stoddard. A total of 7 family members buried in a family plot with space for 8, but only John L. had a marker. My sense of discovery was great, but then I quickly wondered why so many family members would be buried without markers on their graves. This, unfortunately, is where the story ends today, but I am still on the search for answers.

Off to Braintree!

As I mentioned in my last post, I had been unable to find any record of my great-grandfather, George H. Perkins, but fortunately (and due to the good memory of a cousin) was able to discover some critical information of my great-grandmother, Julia (Curtin) Perkins. The documents of the funeral home in Natick and from contacting the town of Auburn, NY, confirmed that her burial place was in Braintree, MA. I tried to contact the Plain Street Cemetery, but because the cemetery is run by the town, communications were difficult at best. This was another job for some sturdy walking shoes…and a tank of gas.

Plain Street Cemetery, Braintree, MA

Plain Street Cemetery, Braintree, MA

My father and I headed up to Braintree early in the morning, as you never know how many twists and turns are waiting ahead. We arrived at the Plain Street Cemetery just after 10:30am (at least we thought it was the Plain Street Cemetery). We didn’t notice a sign but that didn’t stop our enthusiastic start. A quick look around revealed no map but there were a few section marker signs…we just needed to figure out the “system.” We were looking for Section 1, which might have also meant the oldest section (not sure) and maybe the first section that pre-dated the whole idea of numbering the sections of the cemetery (not sure about that also, but upon reflection of our day, I think the section numbering idea was not developed on day 1…). By now my father and I have established a fairly good system of cemetery searching, spreading out a bit to cover more area but also staying close to communicate and second check each other. After a bit of walking around and one or two distant cousins with the same Perkins name, we finally found George and Julia. The feeling was pretty wonderful – we had found the evasive burial place of important family members and we were now connected in a new way, albeit through prayer and respect for their final resting place. We cleaned the grave markers and paid our prayerful respect for a time.

Our next mission was to try to better understand where and when George had died. We headed off to the Town Clerk’s Office in Braintree…confident that that is exactly where he died (or, at least that’s what we told the Town Clerk). No…no record of George H. Perkins in Braintree. He jumped in the car and headed off to Quincy because family stories had placed a few relatives there. Again, a boost of confidence and a meeting with the City Clerk in Quincy. The City Clerk was not as confident, so we were allowed to check the record index ourselves. Again, we were fortunate to find George’s record in Quincy and close the loop on this bit of his story…many more stories await!

Sturdy walking shoes and a good memory

St. Patrick's Cemetery, Natick, MA

St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Natick, MA

A short update from my last research trip to Natick, MA, in search of the final resting place of my great-grandparents, George and Julia Perkins. Research would indicate that St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Natick was the place that was most likely to look for my great-grandparents’ graves, so my father and I headed up there with energy and determination. We arrived mid-morning and walked around, and walked around, and walked around…we finally met the cemetery director and verified my great-grandparents’ graves were not located at St. Patrick’s. However, we did locate my great-great-grandparents’ burial site (Julia’s parents, as shown) so we were happy to have achieved this important find. We headed across the street to the Dell Park Cemetery, where people of any religious background are allowed to be buried…no luck there either. More than just the steady rain had dampened our spirits, so we headed into town to check the Town Clerk’s Office and the Reference Library. No luck in either place, but the librarian gave us a great recommendation for lunch.

As we headed across the town green toward our lunch spot, the Everett Funeral Home was just off the town center to our left. I had heard from a cousin that he was pretty sure the folks at Everett were responsible for the funeral arrangements for my great-grandparents. After satisfying our hunger, we planned to head over to the Everett Funeral Home to satisfy our search for some questions. Lunch was very good and upon arriving at the Everett Funeral Home, we were greeted by some very nice people. We asked our questions and wrote down all the information we had…and then left with their promise to look up the information in their records. The funeral home was very beautiful and we commented that we were surprised our cousin mentioned he had to stoop to enter the funeral home during our grandmother’s funeral. A long story short: no luck on obtaining any information about George or Julia Perkins from their records, but the mention of the memory of stooping to arrive at the funeral home had prompted the memory of someone who had worked at the funeral home for some time – he said that the Mitchell Funeral Home had a very low ceiling during the 1960’s and 1970’s. A few more calls and….YES, I received information that the Mitchell Funeral Home had indeed held Julia Perkins’ funeral and she is buried in Braintree, MA, at the Plain Street Cemetery!! No record of George Perkins, but my hope is that he is buried alongside Julia, his wife.

My next adventure will likely take place in the area of Braintree…and I might as well keep on going to Plymouth County and visit the sites of my many other ancestors in that area. Stay tuned for more!!

Do you smell smoke?

I work at an Episcopal Church that was established in 1841. Certainly not one of the earliest such churches in CT, but old enough that we receive the occasional inquiry about births, deaths, marriages, etc., especially prior to the 1940’s. The unfortunate complication to some of these requests is the damage suffered and the precious records lost due to a fire in 1991. As someone interested in family research myself, I try to find as much information as possible but the long shadow of the fire continues to complicate research requests.

With this in mind, I am planning a trip to the Boston area in the hopes of finding the grave sites of my great-grandparents. I am rather confident that they both were buried somewhere in Natick, MA, but a thorough search (along with many phone calls to every cemetery in town) has yielded no concrete evidence. I was able to discover that my great-grandparents’ first child died before his first birthday and town records indicate he was buried at St. Patrick’s Cemetery. I have also discovered town records that indicate my great-great-grandfather was buried at St. Pat’s as well. Full of hope I called St. Patrick’s Cemetery, but there are no records to indicate the burial of my great-grandparents. However, I am told there was a large fire in the 1970’s and anything is possible. The upcoming trip will be a walk-about to determine what records are no longer able to tell me. If there is a hopeful Eagle Scout looking for a project, maybe you could catalog the names and information on all the grave markers at St. Pat’s!

Finally, I also tried to determine the early years of my great-grandfather’s mother (Mary L. Gaiten) born in Lowell, MA, and married there in the 1860’s. A few phone calls led to disappointing results and the reason for the difficulty…a large fire in 1904. The fire of St. Patrick’s Church is documented very well and a wonderful story may be found on the blog “Forgotten New England” – <select here>.  All of these stories help me to appreciate the digital media we have today and the requirements for the local towns to gather the information and protect it for future generations. Research is fun, but the persistent threat of fire makes one become creative…I will soon be walking through the cemetery of St. Pat’s with my father – I hope the granite is more forthcoming with information.

Margaret K and the Dutch Reformed community of Schenectady

My trip to Schenectady was very productive and I have many people to thank. The Grems-Doolittle Library in Schenectady is a wonderful resource and a special thanks to their librarian/archivist, Melissa Tacke. And because it’s not only about research, if you are in Schenectady and find yourself hungry, I would recommend heading down Union Street to the Union Cafe!

The first piece of information I learned about Margaret Kittle is that her last name is only one of many variations – Ketelhuyn, Ketel, Kittle, Kittel, Ketelheun to mention a few. This is one of the first challenges of genealogical research because finding common facts among various representations of information can be confusing, but fortunately diligence will often pay off. As my wife and I began our research, we were lucky to spot a reference to Margaret Eliza Fisher Kittle, born 8 September 1811. The summary sheet also contained her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. We soon learned that Margaret Kittle is a direct descendent of the family originally called Ketelhuyn or Ketel; and Jochem Ketelhuyn being the first of the American family, arriving in Fort Orange (Albany, NY) in 1642. The family lived in Albany in the earliest years but eventually made their way to Schenectady and became regular members of the First Dutch Reformed Church of Schenectady. Records via Ancestry.com are nearly impossible, but there are fairly good records from the church and the local records in the historical library in Schenectady. For a full discussion of the earliest generations of the family, see Sumner Kittelle’s book, “The Ketel Family.” For a detailed accounting of the Ketelhuyn (Kittle) family, see the outline of the family by following this link (select here). If you are a family member (of Ansel H. Perkins and Margaret), Margaret’s place in the family follows this lineage: [Margaret(6), David(5), Daniel(4), Joachim(3), Daniel(2), Jochem(1)]. As noted in Sumner Kittelle’s research, Jochem(1) is noted as Joachim III, the first member of the American line. Again, my research was very productive and the information presented here is mainly based on genealogical facts…stories can be found in the linked resources.

A great trip and one step closer to completing the genealogical information required to conclusively show direct family ancestry to several families of the Mayflower and other early families of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. More to come!

The Kittle family of Schenectady

I’m taking a trip to Schenectady, NY, in the hopes of discovering more about the life and story of Margaret Kittle and her family. Margaret is my 3rd Great-grandmother and the only person not from Plymouth County or the greater Boston area. I’m hoping to find how my grandparents met and more about the Kittle family. I will provide an update after my research trip.  Hope it goes well!